wifi all over the place

Washington Monthly's lengthy article "Let There Be WiFi" is thought provoking, especially if you live near Philadelphia, as I do. I had heard previously that the communications giants successfully lobbied to block municipal wifi in most of PA, and almost succeeded at stopping the Wireless Philadelphia plan. This article discusses that and much more.

Americans like to think of themselves as leaders in just about every field. McChesney and Podesta argue that this is simply not the case in terms of generalized broadband access:

"While about 60 percent of U.S. households do not subscribe to broadband because it is either unavailable where they live or they cannot afford it, most Japanese citizens can access a high-speed connection that's more than 10 times faster than what's available here for just $22 a month."

They suggest that...

"The countries surpassing the United States in broadband deployment did so by using a combination of public entities and private firms."

"But of particular note, the Japanese government also encouraged municipalities to build their own networks, especially in rural areas. Towns and villages willing to set up their own ultra-high-speed fiber networks received government subsidies covering approximately one-third of their costs."

And then quickly point out that "the United States has pursued the opposite policy." This is certainly true in the case of Pennsylvania, except for Philadelphia where Verizon and friends were too late to stop Wireless Philadelphia's momentum.

Podesta and McChesney make a compelling argument for encouraging community sponsored broadband initiatives, suggesting that "Without real competition or innovation, broadband deployment in the United States has stagnated." Of course a more democratic approach to widespread, community sponsored Wifi isn't going to make corporate telephony happy, but in the end maybe that's okay. Verizon at least could certainly use a little grassroots competition. It might force them to actually serve their customers.

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